36 Views

Bisi Alimi On LGBT Rights In Nigeria

Being gay in London, says Bisi Alimi, is boring. “You get in the queue in front of G-A-Y or Heaven. You go in, party, and leave. Where’s the excitement?”

Being out in Lagos and going to underground parties, he says, is far more thrilling. It’s how Alimi, a LGBT rights and HIV activist, imagines the scene would have been in the UK in the 1960s and 70s. “We had this party that got broken into and many people got beaten up and soaked in blood. But the next week we were all back for the party, because life has got to go on.”

Given the potential dangers of being openly gay in Nigeria, is there a neighbourhood similar to London’s Soho – well-known for its LGBT nightlife – in his former home of Lagos? “I wish,” he laughs. “You would meet people through friends or at parties. When I left Nigeria, [the website] Gaydar was quite popular but it was very underground – people would go to an internet cafe and minimise the window if someone walked past.”

Alimi came out on a live TV show in 2004 in response to rumours about his sexuality. Following the broadcast, he was disowned by his family and some of his friends and arrested on unexplained charges. Alimi says that being shut out by those closest to him left him “overwhelmed” and “in shock”.

Alimi fled Nigeria in 2007, was given refugee status in the UK in 2008 and became a British citizen in 2014. He thinks the Home Office’s attitude towards LGBT asylum seekers is appalling. “If someone is seeking asylum or is a refugee, they are genuinely running away from something, they’re traumatised, and then you expect them to sit around a table and tell you the details of something that is so shocking for them? The government needs to be more humane and open about the asylum process.”

Bisi Alimi campaigning against anti-migrant rhetoric from Nigel Farage in the UK’s May 2015 general election
Bisi Alimi campaigning against anti-migrant rhetoric from Nigel Farage in the UK’s May 2015 general election. Photograph: Bisi Alimi

While some developing countries – such as Mozambique, Nepal and Nicaragua – have made progress and decriminalised same-sex sexual activities in the last decade, Nigeria seems to be going backwards. Sexual acts between people of the same sex are still illegal under federal law and in 2014 then president Goodluck Jonathan signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act into law, criminalising all forms of same-sex unions and marriage.

Despite the frequent threats of violence faced by LGBT people in Nigeria, Alimi says the most painful thing is knowing that any relationship will have to end: “My longest relationship was for four years but we knew that it would only last until one of us found a woman to marry.” Pressured by society and families, many gay men and lesbian women marry someone of the opposite sex. “The expectation is to conform, not to live happily with who you are,” he says.

Some gay men and lesbian women in Nigeria marry each other – “everybody’s happy, everybody lives their separate lives” – or they continue their relationships after they’ve married someone of the opposite sex, “but there’s nothing meaningful about it,” says Alimi. “That’s why in many places in Africa, sexual relationships between same-sex people are considered a game. You either lose or you win, and that is really very painful.”

Alimi is not confident that Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, nor the recently adopted sustainable development goals will do much to further LGBT rights in Nigeria. He is adamant, though, that his country could tip the balance when it comes to recognising LGBT rights in Africa.

“There is enough evidence to show that if what happened in Uganda [the overturning of an anti-homosexuality law] had happened in Nigeria, many things would have changed on the continent,” he says. “Nigeria plays a huge role in terms of population, economy and politics. That’s why I still encourage the global community to look at the vital role Nigeria has to play in decriminalising sexual orientation and gender identity.”

This will not happen overnight. Last year, Alimi launched his “legacy project”, the Bisi Alimi Foundation, which conducts research to try and influence policy change for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Nigeria. (“We don’t include trans because Nigerians have not yet come to the full understanding of the trans identity,” explains Alimi.)

The foundation predicts that it will take 20 years for Nigerians to demand a non-discriminatory law to protect LGBT people. “I’m not saying that we will have the law by then, but we will be demanding for it,” says Alimi. “It’s going to take another five years to actually have that law, possibly another 10 or 15 years to have a law that would recognise lesbian, gay and bisexual rights, and then maybe another 20 years after that to have a same-sex marriage law. It’s not going to happen in the next 50 or 60 years, but we have to start now.”

Last year Alimi wrote that homosexuality is not external to African culture. “The first law to criminalise same-sex relationships in English-speaking African countries were the British buggery laws, brought onto the continent during colonisation,” he says. “They have stayed in Nigeria until it signed the Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act in 2014, which was justified by the Bible – a western text.”

Bisi Alimi at TEDx Berlin
Bisi Alimi speaking at TEDx Berlin. 

Many have called for the British government to apologise for introducing the laws into its colonies. While Alimi says that an apology will not take away the pain he experienced, he believes it would show people who support anti-homosexuality laws that they have no roots in African culture. This could then allow activists to engage in open and honest conversations about the realities of being LGBT.

“I think we need to ask: how do we make religion more loving, more accepting and more accommodating?,” says Alimi. “I hope we can get to a position where religion is not the decider of the political agenda on the continent of Africa.”

Alimi has returned to Nigeria only once since he left in 2007 – in November 2015 for the Ake Arts and Books Festival. “I had so much fun at the festival, but I didn’t enjoy Nigeria and the situation I found myself in,” says Alimi. “I had people around me telling me where I can and can’t go … I wanted to know what it’s like to be Nigerian again, but I didn’t have that.”

So would Alimi ever move back to Nigeria for good? No, he says, never. “I feel very much at home in London and the UK. Nigeria will continue to be my place of birth, but I think we both had a very nasty break-up and I don’t think we’re going to remarry.”

source: the guardian

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Latest Posts

Nwankwo Kanu Launches N1 Billion Jackpot Lotto To Support Kanu Heart Foundation
Food and Health
39 views
Food and Health
39 views

Nwankwo Kanu Launches N1 Billion Jackpot Lotto To Support Kanu Heart Foundation

PH - October 17, 2017

Legendary Nigerian footballer and philanthropist, Nwankwo Kanu, is launching the biggest lotto in Africa to raise funds for the Kanu Heart Foundation (KHF) (www.KanuHeartFoundationNg.com) and help build…

6 Reasons Why Senator Abaribe Applied To Be Discharged As Nnamdi Kanu’s Surety
Politics
58 views
Politics
58 views

6 Reasons Why Senator Abaribe Applied To Be Discharged As Nnamdi Kanu’s Surety

PH - October 17, 2017

The Senator representing Abia South Senatorial District, Enyinaya Abaribe, has applied to the court to be discharged from the suretyship, bond and recognizance of the bail of…

Lagos State Records 100% Increase In Domestic And Sexual Violence Cases
Shocking
45 views
Shocking
45 views

Lagos State Records 100% Increase In Domestic And Sexual Violence Cases

PH - October 17, 2017

The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) yesterday has stated that 950 domestic and sexual violence cases have been reported this year alone, compared…

Where Is TSTV Nigeria 17 Days After Launch? – Biola Kazeem
Business
51 views
Business
51 views

Where Is TSTV Nigeria 17 Days After Launch? – Biola Kazeem

PH - October 17, 2017

Renowned sport analyst Biola Kazeem has taken to Twitter to express his thoughts on the inability of TSTV to commence operation 17 days after launching. He also…

Davido Finally Speaks After Alleged Murder – ‘I Forgive All Those Who Called Me A Murderer’
Entertainment
68 views
Entertainment
68 views

Davido Finally Speaks After Alleged Murder – ‘I Forgive All Those Who Called Me A Murderer’

MT - October 17, 2017

Nigerian singer Davido, who has been embroiled in some controversies recently over the death of some friends, says he ‘forgives’ all those who accused him of murder.…

Omoni Oboli’s Okafors Law Becomes the First Nigerian Movie to be Screened at Film Festival in South Korea
Entertainment
61 views
Entertainment
61 views

Omoni Oboli’s Okafors Law Becomes the First Nigerian Movie to be Screened at Film Festival in South Korea

PH - October 17, 2017

Nollywood film maker and actor, Omoni Oboli is grateful for the good news she received on her movie, ‘Okafors Law.’ Earlier this year, a court injunction stopped…

Queen Chanel of Iwoland Explains Why She Wears A Crown
Art, History and Culture
67 views
Art, History and Culture
67 views

Queen Chanel of Iwoland Explains Why She Wears A Crown

PH - October 17, 2017

Queen Chanel Chin, is the wife of Oluwo of Iwoland, Oba Abdulrasheed Akanbi. Born in Toronto, Canada, Queen Chanel’s dream of coming to Africa was fulfilled when…

Important Things Couples Should be Doing During Courtship Before Marriage (Must Read)
Lifestyle
56 views
Lifestyle
56 views

Important Things Couples Should be Doing During Courtship Before Marriage (Must Read)

MT - October 17, 2017

Getting married is one of the biggest decisions that you will ever make. You are entrusting the rest of your life into the care of another human…

Barack Obama Chooses Nigerian Artist Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait
Art, History and Culture
46 views
Art, History and Culture
46 views

Barack Obama Chooses Nigerian Artist Kehinde Wiley to Paint His Official Presidential Portrait

PH - October 17, 2017

Former US President Barack Obama has handpicked artist Kehinde Wiley to paint his official Presidential portrait, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery announced. Wiley is best known for his pieces showing African-Americans in hip-hop gears,…

Nigeria Wins Re-Election Into UN Human Rights Council
World Buzz
53 views
World Buzz
53 views

Nigeria Wins Re-Election Into UN Human Rights Council

PH - October 17, 2017

Nigeria has won a re-election into the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva for the 2018 to 2020 term at an election held on Monday at the…

FUNAAB Produces 203 First Class Graduates
Best of Nigeria
81 views
Best of Nigeria
81 views

FUNAAB Produces 203 First Class Graduates

PH - October 17, 2017

Ololade Enikuomehin, acting vice-chancellor, Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, said on Monday that the institution produced 203 first class graduates in the 2016/2017 academic session. The university also said…

Tagbo: 5 Things You Need To Know About Davido’s Late Friend
Entertainment
106 views
Entertainment
106 views

Tagbo: 5 Things You Need To Know About Davido’s Late Friend

MT - October 16, 2017

About two weeks ago, Nigerians woke up to the news of the death of one Tagbo Umeike, who was later introduced as a friend of Nigerian hip…

Lukaku Reveals Why He Do Not Put Pressure On Himself Scoring Against Big Teams
Sports
55 views
Sports
55 views

Lukaku Reveals Why He Do Not Put Pressure On Himself Scoring Against Big Teams

MT - October 16, 2017

Liverpool goalkeeper, Simon Mignolet was barely troubled by the Premier League’s top scorer, Romelu Lukaku on Saturday, but he is certain that important goals will come at…

Orji-Uzor Kalu Speaks About Buhari’s Govt. – ‘The President Is Marginalizing The Igbos, I’m Not Afraid To Speak The Truth’
Politics
86 views
Politics
86 views

Orji-Uzor Kalu Speaks About Buhari’s Govt. – ‘The President Is Marginalizing The Igbos, I’m Not Afraid To Speak The Truth’

MT - October 16, 2017

While speaking in an exclusive interview with The Sun Newspaper, achieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former governor of Abia State, Orji Uzor Kalu, state that…

The Transformation Of These Twins Has Got The Internet Buzzing (PHOTOS)
Inspiring
97 views
Inspiring
97 views

The Transformation Of These Twins Has Got The Internet Buzzing (PHOTOS)

MT - October 16, 2017

These twins’ transformation has everyone talking! Talking about transforming, here’s one. Wow! I guess They grew up Learned a few tricks about makeup and bleaching too.

In Photos: Wives Of Nigerian Senators Looking Glamorous As They Attend Birthday Party In Ibadan
Politics
95 views
Politics
95 views

In Photos: Wives Of Nigerian Senators Looking Glamorous As They Attend Birthday Party In Ibadan

MT - October 16, 2017

Toyin Saraki, wife of senate president led a group of women (wives of Nigerian senators) to celebrate Senator Akanbi’s wife’s 50th birthday in Ibadan, Oyo state capital.…

Best Proposal Ever: Nigerian Man Stage Molestation By Soldiers Just To Propose To Girlfriend (Watch Video)
Romance and Love
88 views
Romance and Love
88 views

Best Proposal Ever: Nigerian Man Stage Molestation By Soldiers Just To Propose To Girlfriend (Watch Video)

MT - October 16, 2017

A Nigerian man teamed up with a set of soldiers just to propose to his girlfriend. The man was seen in the video pretending to be molested…

2019 Election: Buhari Remains “Unbeatable Candidate For The APC”
Politics
62 views
Politics
62 views

2019 Election: Buhari Remains “Unbeatable Candidate For The APC”

PH - October 16, 2017

Kogi State Governor, Alh. Yahaya Bello has reiterated the determination of the people of the state and Nigerians in general to ensure President Muhammadu Buhari continues his…

Loading...